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Thoughts on immigration: A critical response from the Peace and Justice Crew

Written collectively by members of the Peace and Justice Crew.

In the Oct. 16 issue of the Echo, Dr. Frank Kalinowski wrote an editorial that was concerned with the Peace and Social Justice crew’s expression of solidarity with immigrant communities in Western North Carolina.
The Peace and Social Justice Crew would like to respond to Dr. Kalinowski’s commentary, and elucidate our position regarding the issue of immigration to the Warren Wilson community.

Plainly, the Peace and Social Justice Crew does not explicitly support the furtherance of a population explosion. We stand in solidarity with people who have been displaced largely due to U.S. trade and foreign policy initiatives and others who suffer from the shortcomings of a U.S. immigration system that fails to actively address the demands of family reunification and immigrant labor.

Our stance on immigration is, and remains, that neoliberal business policies featuring NAFTA and CAFTA, coupled with the growing militarization of Latin American nations with U.S. funding (Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative), have largely led to the mass exile of people from south of the border to the United States that we have witnessed over the past fourteen years.

In his editorial, Dr. Kalinowski writes, “Effective immigration control must begin with the enforcement of our laws, which means we should isolate and raid those American businesses who are hiring (and exploiting!) illegal aliens, impose stiff penalties on the employers, identify those are in this country illegally, and deport them to their home countries.”

We, the Peace and Social Justice Crew, strongly oppose our government’s decision to use raids and 287g to alienate and deport undocumented peoples. These tactics fail to make leaps towards real immigration reform. They provide nothing more than a band-aid over a deep wound, break up families across the country, instill a climate of fear and distrust in our communities, and institutionalize racial profiling.
There is no question that immigration control calls for enforcement of our nation’s laws. But before this can be done with justice, our national immigration laws must be revised so as to open up a safe and legal pathway for needed workers to work and live in this country without fear of profiling and deportation. And to effectively revamp our immigration system, our government must actively recognize the social, political, and economic implications that their policies buttress, shaping the circumstances we witness today with regard to the migration phenomenon.

We believe that labeling undocumented immigrants as lawbreakers or illegals inadequately penalizes the individual rather than the broken system.

Environmental and social justice are intimately intertwined. That said, we believe that population growth should certainly be taken into consideration by those policymakers who lay the groundwork for such high volumes of migration to this country. Though our crew in no way doubts the impact that population growth has on our environment, we find it unjust to punish those individuals who suffer from the repercussions of the neoliberal economic development model and a visa application process which leaves very little opportunity for most who seek it.

Conclusively, the Peace and Social Justice Crew would like to recognize Dr. Kalinowski’s dissenting voice. Campuses such as ours often run the risk of becoming incapable of hosting differing viewpoints. His editorial has also prompted our crew to publicly shed light on our fundamental position on immigration issues. For that we thank him.

We encourage members of the Warren Wilson community to call on their senators and representatives to consider the root causes of migration when making key votes on trade legislation in Congress. Demanding a renegotiation of the free trade treaties between the U.S. and Latin America is a key step towards justice (social and environmental hand-in-hand) across borders. For more conversation and action, get involved in upcoming Asheville events like the Town Hall Forum on Immigration Nov. 11 from 7-9 p.m. at St. Eugene’s Catholic Church in North Asheville and the Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network Training on Nov. 18 at 7:15 p.m. at UNCA. Also taking place on Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. in Sage Café, will be a presentation by Warren Wilson students on their recent WorldWide course “The Roots and Cycles of Economic and Military Violence in Guatemala and Mexico.” For more information on raids, 287g, and upcoming immigration-related events, please visit the Peace and Social Justice Crew office, located next to the Post Office in Lower Gladfelter.

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